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The Five Basic Skills of Drawing


Update: Due to popular demand, I’ve now made this 5-part guide available as a PDF download, so you can print it out and refer to it while you draw.

Download The Five Basic Skills of Drawing (PDF, 1.3MB)

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“Free Guide to The Five Basic Skills of Drawing” (Tweet this)

In her classic book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, Betty Edwards identifies five basic skills of drawing, as follows:

  • The Perception of Edges
  • The Perception of Spaces
  • The Perception of Relationships
  • The Perception of Light & Shadow
  • The Perception of the Whole or Gestalt

The following series of posts explores each of these basic skills in turn, expanding on their use in drawing, and suggesting some specific techniques to help you master the five basic skills.

1. The Perception of Edges

The Perception of Edges

Edges are the boundaries that separate the areas of a drawing. In this first post, you will learn the difference between soft and sharp edges, and how you can use them to create the illusion of depth in your drawings. Read this post…

2. The Perception of Spaces

Perception of Spaces in Drawing

Learn about negative space, and how focusing on it, rather than on positive forms, can improve your drawing skills. You will also learn the answer to the question “How do I draw [insert anything here]?” Read this post…

3. The Perception of Relationships

Perception of Relationships in Drawing

In this post, you will learn how a drawing is made up entirely of the relationships between its elements, and that we can change our drawing by altering these relationships. You’ll also learn a simple way to judge relationships by measuring with a basic unit. Read this post…

4. The Perception of Light and Shadow

Perception of Light and Shadow in Drawing

Learn what is arguably the most important skill of drawing – how to see and draw light and shadow. You will learn about the limitations of drawing media in representing light and shadow, and how to overcome those limitations by focusing on value relationships. Read this post…

5. The Perception of the Whole, or Gestalt

Earth as seen from the moon

Rounding up the series, we learn how to apply the first four skills, while keeping in mind the overall image, making sure that our drawing looks like the thing it’s supposed to. Read this post…

6 Comments on The Five Basic Skills of Drawing

  1. carole wilson says:

    Is it possible to e-mail me the 5 basic skills of drawing. I found this on FB and think it would be very helpful to refer to as I am drawing.


    • Dan Johnson says:

      Hi Carole. Once I publish part 5, I’ll see about making them available as a single download. I’ll let you know when that’s ready 🙂

  2. Shelli says:

    Hi Dan could you please let me know when you do a single download of all five. It is extremely valuable. Thank you, Shelli

  3. Pingback: Speed drawing portrait in dry brush technique. HD. | Learning Jigsaw

  4. LaLa says:

    I’m teaching an Intro to Art class this year and
    your website has been a great start. Although I have had some formal art training, it’s a challenge teaching art to middle schoolers. Thanks again!

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